Chi­nese play­ers eye break­through Man­u­fac­tur­ers step up ef­forts to smash South Korea’s global AMOLED dis­play screen mo­nop­oly

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By FAN FEIFEI fan­feifei@chi­

They are flex­i­ble, flashy and light­ning fast. We also stare at them for hours ev­ery day.

Smart­phones have trans­formed our culture and pli­able dis­play pan­els are trans­form­ing smart­phones.

In a move to break South Korea’s stran­gle­hold in AMOLED, or ac­tive ma­trix/ or­ganic light-emit­ting diode tech­nol­ogy, Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers are in­vest­ing heav­ily in this cut­ting-edge process.

Tech com­pa­nies mak­ing tablets, wear­able gad­gets and, of course, high-end smart­phones, are in­creas­ingly turn­ing to AMOLED, as it is phys­i­cally flex­i­ble com­pared to tra­di­tional liq­uid crys­tal dis­play, or LCD, pan­els.

“The global AMOLED dis­play mar­ket is dom­i­nated by South Korean com­pa­nies,” a re­port re­leased by Dig­itimes, a me­dia and con­sul­tancy com­pany, stated.

“Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics Co Ltd is set to sup­ply up to 80 mil­lion smart­phone pan­els for the iPhone 8 this year, which will be based on AMOLED tech­nol­ogy,” it added.

Still, BOE Tech­nol­ogy Group Co Ltd is muscling into the mar­ket by chal­leng­ing the dom­i­nance of South Korean com­pa­nies af­ter in­vest­ing heav­ily in the sec­tor.

The Bei­jing-based sup­plier of semi­con­duc­tor dis­play prod­ucts now has three AMOLED pro­duc­tion lines in Or­dos in the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion, and in Chengdu and Mianyang, both in Sichuan prov­ince.

“We have been pay­ing at­ten­tion to re­search and de­vel­op­ment in flex­i­ble small- and medium-sized dis­play pan­els for high-end mo­bile phones and wear­able de­vices,” said Zhang Yu, vice-pres­i­dent of BOE.

The com­pany in­vested 46.5 bil­lion yuan ($6.9 bil­lion) on a sixth gen­er­a­tion AMOLED pro­duc­tion line, which was rolled out in May, at its Chengdu fac­tory. It can turn out 48,000 glass sub­strate pan­els per month.

BOE ex­pects to ship about 90 mil­lion AMOLED dis­play screens per year, while Mianyang’s new line is slated to start pro­duc­tion by 2019.

Founded in 1993, the group is also un­der­stood to be in talks with Ap­ple Inc to sup­ply next-gen­er­a­tion dis­play screens for iPhones by 2018 or later, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, the me­dia com­pany.

At least that makes sense as mar­ket re­search firm IHS Markit has fore­casted that BOE will be­come the world’s largest sup­plier for AMOLED dis­play pan­els in 2019.

“AMOLED tech­nol­ogy is the fu­ture trend for smart­phone pan­els,” Vice-Pres­i­dent Zhang per­cent said. “At the mo­ment, tech­no­log­i­cal up­grades of dis­play pan­els on smart­phones con­cen­trate on ap­pear­ance, func­tion and im­age qual­ity,” Zhang added.

“The flex­i­ble AMOLED dis­play brings more pos­si­bil­i­ties to a phone’s ap­pear­ance.”

Sam­sung is the main player in AMOLED tech­nol­ogy with a 90 per­cent mar­ket share. AMOLED pan­els were even rolled out for its Gal­axy se­ries smart­phones.

But Chi­nese mo­bile manu- fac­tur­ers, such as Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co Ltd and Xiaomi Corp, have in­cor­po­rated the tech­nol­ogy into their flag­ship high-end, curved screen de­vices.

“Pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of AMOLED will con­tinue to in­crease in the next few years with the estab­lish­ment of new pro­duc­tion lines in China,” Zhang said, ad­ding that South Korean com­pa­nies will even­tu­ally lose their grip on the mar­ket.

Sta­tis­tics re­leased by Sig­main­tell Con­sult­ing Co Ltd showed that about 23 per­cent of global smart­phones had AMOLED dis­play pan­els last year.

The Bei­jing-based re­search com­pany ex­pects that fig­ure to reach 64 per­cent in 2021.

“Last year, global ship­ments in­creased by 40 per­cent com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year,” Sig­main­tell re­ported.

Apart from BOE, Shen­zhen China Star Op­to­elec­tron­ics Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd, or CSOT, has started work on a sixth gen­er­a­tion LTPS-AMOLED dis­play panel pro­duc­tion line in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince.

“It will pro­duce small- and medium-sized dis­play pan­els with high-res­o­lu­tion, flex­i­ble and fold­able func­tions for topof-the-range smart­phones,” the com­pany stated.

The CSOT pro­duc­tion line will cost 35 bil­lion yuan and will be op­er­a­tional by the sec- ond quar­ter of 2019.

Up to 45,000 mod­ules will be man­u­fac­tured each month by 2020 and 1.16 mil­lion square me­ters of AMOLED smart­phone pan­els pro­duced an­nu­ally.

“There is a huge po­ten­tial for growth in flex­i­ble and fold­able dis­play units, but sup­ply will fail to meet de­mand in the next few years,” said Li Dong­sheng, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of TCL Corp, the par­ent com­pany of CSOT.

Fig­ures re­leased from in­dus­try con­sul­tancy CINNO Re­search showed that ship­ments of flex­i­ble AMOLED smart­phone pan­els reached 55 mil­lion units last year.

By the end of 2017, that num­ber is ex­pected to rise to 160 mil­lion units with an­nual com­pounded growth of 88.2 per­cent up to 2020.

Data con­sul­tancy Dig­itimes ex­pects Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers to eat into Sam­sung’s mar­ket share by 2019 as they in­crease in­vest­ment and pro­duc­tion in the sec­tor.

“The de­mand for AMOLED pan­els will wit­ness rapid growth,” said Li Yaqin, vi­cepres­i­dent of Sig­main­tell Con­sult­ing.

“Apart from smart­phones and tablets, it also has a broad ap­pli­ca­tion in wear­ables, vir­tual re­al­ity or aug­mented re­al­ity de­vices, and other emerg­ing dis­play ar­eas,” Li added.

AMOLED tech­nol­ogy is the fu­ture trend for smart­phone pan­els.” Zhang Yu, vice-pres­i­dent of BOE Tech­nol­ogy Group About 23 per­cent of global smart­phones had AMOLED dis­play pan­els in 2016, and that fig­ure will reach 64 per­cent in 2021.


Cus­tomers try out Sam­sung’s new Gal­axy Note FE (Fan Edi­tion) mod­els at a mo­bile phone shop in KT Square, Seoul, South Korea.

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